Christine and the Queens, the pop project that’s the brainchild of French singer-choreographer-producer Hélöise Letissier, has always been about activity. The first Christine and the Queens album, 2014’s Chaleur Humaine, paired slick synth pop with perpetual-motion videos that electrified her live shows and inspired YouTube dance tutorials.
On Chris, released on the record label Because Music, Letissier sounds even more energized. Chris—named after the persona Letissier took on for the album, one that she has described as “bolder and stronger and had more muscle”—swaggers and grooves, with Letissier showcasing her forceful alto and her keen knowledge of how to make a dance record turn any room into a mirror-ball-lit club. On “Doesn’t Matter,” Letissier roller-skates around drum-machine handclaps and keyboard swells, her voice cresting into a wail. “Goya Soda” pairs crystalline keyboards with a bouncing-ball bass. Chris is full of moments with seemingly opposing musical ideals: the erotically charged “Damn (What Must a Woman Do)” manages to sound both rubbery and robotic, while the chorus of “5 Dollars” has the big-tent sweep of recent EDM smashes, contrasting with Letissier’s passionate vocal on the verses.
That constant flipping of expectations has made Christine and the Queens one of pop’s most exciting recent success stories. Letissier, whether performing as Christine or Chris or under her own name, chafes at the idea of being put into a box. With Chris, which Letissier wrote and produced, she not only explodes any boxes that might contain her; she also turns the rumblings leading up to and following those blasts into building blocks for irresistible, thumping tunes.